Whether you have a cat or a dog, making sure they get adequate amounts of playtime is vital to their well-being. Playtime has many mental and physical health benefits, not only for your pet, but for you too!
Strengthen Your Bond
Cats: They’re known for being aloof, but engaging in play with your cat does deepen the bond between you. Grab a variety of toys to see which type they prefer. Some kitties like fake mice to bat around, others like kicker toys that make noises, or they’re more inclined toward wands with toys attached.
Let your kitty hunt and catch their toy prey. Spend about 15 minutes a few times a day engaging with them in this way and watch your bond grow. Play is especially important for those who aren’t exactly lap cats. It allows you to spend time together in a different way to ensure your cat feels safe and comfortable.
Dogs: Like cats, quality time together is a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your pup. Dogs love to play, and they want someone to play with. You can even use the time as a way of teaching new tricks like sit, stay, or fetch.
Because of their pack mentality, dogs use play as a way of building relationships with other dogs. They view playtime with you the same way! You are part of their pack.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Cats: While chonky cats have taken the internet by storm, they could end up with many health problems, like diabetes, chronic pain, and respiratory issues. When the pounds start adding up, cats are less likely to want to play. It’s good to have a playtime routine as soon as you adopt and bring them home.
Cats are active for short amounts of time—they do share genes with big, wild cats. They expend a huge amount of energy for their meal, and then spend many hours sleeping to recuperate. Incorporating playtime throughout the day will help them maintain a healthy weight. Making their environment conducive to play can help too—whether it’s putting up cat shelves for them to climb on or placing cat trees and scratchers in their favorite spots.
Dogs: Pups need regular exercise. Incorporating extra play outside of their regular walks is a great way to keep them fit and release excess energy.
Try taking your pup to a dog park or romping around your backyard together. Play hide and seek, throw a tennis ball, or take them for a quick jog around the block. High-energy play sessions help them burn off calories, as well as keep their muscles and joints in tip-top shape.
You can always ask your vet what types of play would be the most beneficial for your dog, based on their breed, age, and current health.
A Healthy Brain Means a Happy Pet
Cats: A bored cat is a destructive cat. Cats who are physically and mentally unstimulated will act out in a variety of ways, such as attacking other pets, biting, or scratching.
While cats may be lower energy than dogs, they do need mental stimulation from both play and their environment to stay happy. Play is different for each cat; it doesn’t have to be high energy, especially if they’re older.
Older cats with mobility issues still like to look at waving feathers and wands. You can even put a window perch on their favorite window and place a bird feeder outside. That sort of mental stimulation and tapping into their natural hunting instincts is a great way for their brains to work and remain sharp.
You can even try puzzle toys filled with their favorite treats. These types of toys also remind them of hunting and allow them to problem solve for a reward.
Dogs: We all know dogs are smart, since they’re naturally very curious and perceptive. They can read our facial expressions and can even understand object permanence—the idea that objects exist even if they are not in line of sight.
Like cats, if dogs get bored, they will create their own version of “fun”—which can become a problem behavior, like destroying your property or acting aggressively.
Instead of letting your dog out in the backyard to do their business, taking them for a long walk stimulates their brain, as there are plenty of things to see and sniff.
Dogs also enjoy puzzles for mental stimulation, and you can teach them new and more complicated tricks—or even how to “talk” using speech buttons.
Though we all lead busy lives, it’s important to carve out time for play with our furry besties. The biggest benefit of all is that the two of you get to have fun together!
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